Mitch Clarke: Teammate Benson Henderson Not “Overlooking” TJ Grant
By Kelsey Mowatt
Although some fans were critical of the UFC’s decision to tap TJ Grant for a title shot fight with Benson Henderson, and others are already looking forward to a rematch between the lightweight champ and Anthony Pettis, fighters like Mitch Clarke know better. Despite the fact Clarke has spent time training with Henderson down at the MMA Lab, and knows how skilled he is first hand, he understands why the champ and his coaching staff aren’t looking past Grant.
“At welterweight he’d win one, lose one, win two, lose one kind of thing,” Clarke said recently while appearing on Full Contact Fighter Radio, when asked if he believes some people may be underestimating the abilities of Grant. “He was up and down, but he had really good fights, but at 155 he’s just been a powerhouse, and I think it’s hard to kind of ignore him at this point.”
Grant joined the UFC back in 2009, and while competing as a welterweight, the Nova Scotia fighter scored wins over Ryo Chonan, Kevin Burns, and Julio Paulino. The fighter also was handed defeats by Dong Hyun Kim, Johny Hendricks and Ricardo Almeida.
After losing by unanimous decision to Almeida at UFC 124 in December, 2011, Grant decided to drop down to lightweight. Since moving to 155 pounds, the BJJ brown belt has earned victories over Shane Roller, Carlo Prater, Evan Dunham, Matt Wiman, and most recently Gray Maynard. While Grant’s grappling abilities have always been well documented, more recently the fighter has showcased vicious striking skills, including his first round KO win over Maynard in May.
“No one’s done that to Gray Maynard,” Clarke noted about Grant’s UFC 160 victory, which entrenched a title fight with Henderson at UFC 164 on August 31st. “No one’s, not walked right through him, but laid a whupping on him. No one’s been able to do that and I think it’s an interesting fight. I think of a lot of it comes down to proper game planning.”
When Anthony Pettis recently began campaigning to take Grant’s spot at UFC 164, some observers argued that he should be granted the bout, citing the fact the former WEC champ beat Henderson before. In the end, the debate was for nothing, since the knee injury that pulled Pettis from his scheduled August 3rd fight with Jose Aldo, will keep him sidelined for several weeks.
“I hope the fans aren’t overlooking TJ because I know Ben and John (Crouch) aren’t overlooking him,” added Clarke, who also credited Henderson, Crouch and the other fighters from the MMA Lab for helping him evolve as a fighter. “They’ve already talked about how dangerous he is and you have to be dangerous to be at the top of the division. He obviously is. He really earned his spot to get that title shot.”
“I wish both guys well but obviously I have to cheer for Ben.”
Clarke (10-2) is coming off a unanimous decision win over John Maguire at UFC 161 on June 15th.
UFC 164 will be hosted by the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.